President Obama's speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize drew immediate reaction
for its hawkish tone, its articulation of "just war," and its
discussion of violent extremism and al-Qaeda. Now many analysts are
reading more deeply into the speech to trace the lineaments of a possible "Obama Doctrine." The
previous administration operated under the Bush Doctrine, widely understood
as the justification of preventative, unilateral war against potential
threats. But is there an Obama Doctrine? Many pundits think Obama laid
it out in his speech Thursday, but they disagree on the contours.
- 'Mulilateralism With Teeth' The Atlantic's Chris Good heard Obama describe "engagement with teeth, coupled with a strong international
commitment." He explain, "It was also a reaction against the Bush
doctrine--of preemptive war--but it was not that doctrine's opposite:
if the Clinton era saw the U.S. engage in nation-building efforts, and
the Bush era saw the U.S. adopt an aggressively retributive--and
ultimately a preemptive--posture toward enemies, Obama's speech marked
a return to the former, with an emphasis on internationalism and human
- All About Intervention The American Prospect's Adam Serwer describes
"unflinching defenses of American military intervention" and "American
exceptionalism that demands certain standards of American
conduct, not one that justifies our actions when we fall short. It
neither justifies violence as a solution to all problems nor condemns
it as useless." Serwer writes, "It was a lengthy defense of American
military intervention from World
War II to Desert Storm, and a forceful justification of the escalation
of troop levels in Afghanistan. It was a stirring defense of human
rights, and an indictment of violence and extremism. Obama at once
dismissed the idea of a military solution for problems of hunger and
disease, while justifying military intervention on humanitarian
- Ending 'Politics of Fear' Spencer Ackerman writes,
"Notice this is not about forswearing violence. It is about what to do
over the long term to make violence less necessary. Obama said he would
end a counterproductive war, and do so gradually. That’s exactly what
he’s done. Obama said he would escalate a war he considered in the
national interest. That’s exactly what he’s done." Ackerman says he
thinks Obama is trying to close the Bush Doctrine and bring "the end of
the politics of fear."
- 'Realism With A Heart' Politico's Ben Smith explains.
"Obama is trying to sell his foreign policy at home and abroad
without public reference to human rights, viewed by this White House as
cheap -- as used by Bush -- and potentially counterproductive. The
challenge is to make cold-eyed realism appealing -- to create a kind of
realism with a heart."
- Improved, Humanitarian Realism The New Republic's Jon Chait says
Obama "rebuked the left" as well as "the blinkered nationalism of the
neoconservatives" to arrive at "a careful middle ground between the
bloodlessness of realism and the unrealistic hope that America can stop
evil everywhere." But that doctrine is "weakest" on "his response to
ethnic cleansing," which Chait says ignored "the choice between
intervention and complicity."
- Realism Merged With Idealism The Plum Line's Greg Sargent suggests, "Obama seems to be trying to recast idealism in foreign policy as of a
piece with realism, in the sense that a realistic and self-interested
view of the world should hold that American ideals are more likely to
foster peace and stability. Realistic idealism? Idealistic realism?"
..That's Old Territory The New Republic's Michael Crowley rejects
the idea that combining realism with idealism is anything innovative.
"[L]et's pause to note that setting up these alternatives and then
embracing some synthesis between them is a hoary cliche of foreign
policy speechmaking. Hillary Clinton, among many other people,made the same case more than two years ago. So did Robert Gates."
- Obama Doctrine Is Bush Doctrine RedState's Erick Erickson thinks so. "I was surprised by Obama's speech. Parts sounded like full throated support for the Bush doctrine." He's not alone among conservatives.
- What Doctrine? Wonkette's Jim Newell rolls his eyes.
"Every president needs his own Military Doctrine, and sure, this'll do.
The Obama Doctrine appears to be 'War is bad, but also good when
there’s a really really tough enemy like Hitler, but make no mistake
war is tragic, but again, sometimes necessary, but still, so much
blood, and yet that blood is important…' etc.
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